A Walk Down Memory Lane of Recent Irish Economic History

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Kevin Cardiff of the European Court of Auditors addresses the Dean’s Speaker Series

The Dean’s Speaker Series had another event last Wednesday when Kevin Cardiff of the European Court of Auditors and also Auditor of the European Stability Mechanism visited Smurfit School. The Dean, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh welcomed Mr. Cardiff to Smurfit. Mr. Cardiff is a decorated senior civil servant and regaled attendees with a detailed summary of economic history in recent decades, spanning the 1992 currency crisis and various iterations of the ERM up to the recent financial crisis of 2008 and beyond.

In a detailed address resembling memoirs, Mr. Cardiff described the tribulations of the 1992 currency crisis in fine detail – featuring newspaper clippings of the big events at the time including the days of major turmoil for Sterling and the Púnt, including the devaluation of the Púnt. He also touched on the advent of the Maastricht Treaty and the departure from the single currency of certain countries in its early days.

Black Wednesday

Mr. Cardiff described in detail the events of the 16th of September 1992, when the United Kingdom withdrew from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. What happened on this day was that Sterling had come under pressure from speculators who had begun a massive sell-off and the UK Government raised interest rates from an already high 10% to 12% with a promise that they would raise further to 15%, in a scenario that was unfolding by the hour. One of the causes of the acuteness of the crisis was the rules of the ERM, particularly that the Bank of England were required to accept any offer to sell Sterling.

The eventual advent of the European single currency was also addressed by Mr. Cardiff. He highlighted the widening of fluctuation bands via the Brussels Compromise of 1993 and Stages II and III of ERM, when mutual exchange rates between member currencies became fixed and the physical currency was introduced in the form of notes and coins.

Mr. Cardiff also gave a detailed review of the events of the financial crisis of 2008, including key developments in relation to the recapitalisation of financial institutions, which he also deals with in his book, “Recap”.

A short question and answer session followed Mr. Cardiff’s address, when the recent event of Brexit was noted and a discussion was had around the future for the European Union. All in all, the event was a thought-provoking and interesting perspective on recent economic history and food for thought in terms of what will happen next in the EU with respect to both regulatory developments and the overall structure of the Union.

Ciarán O’Shea ~ Year 2, Executive MBA

The Entrepreneurship Club

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One could argue that the main draw each Wednesday evening was the fine canapes and wine; but with over 1400 man hours of discussions and learning about entrepreneurship that were enabled this semester, the bait wasn’t really needed but was much appreciated.

The opportunity to get a first-hand interpretation of experiences from industry stalwarts, serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business gurus and a class of peers with a common hunger to solve a problem, any problem, has been truly beneficial.

The UCD Entrepreneurship Series, brought to fruition by The UCD College of Business and The Smurfit MBA Entrepreneurship Club, has been a successful collaboration under the stewardship of the Entrepreneur in Residence Majella Murphy and the MBA students. The legacy of which we hope continues into the future.

This year we saw the journey of UCD alumni, as they tackled the highs and lows of setting up their own establishments and heard their account of navigating the often-misunderstood entrepreneurial landscape. From idea generation, problem resolution to monetization, the forum has not only dealt with the necessary guidelines and tools but also efficaciously highlighted the bravado of the human spirit.

Two of the events gained substantial fame, the first was the visit of Patrick McGuinness and the latter comprised of a panel of Venture capitalists. Not surprisingly though, since two of the greatest fears before pursuing down this route seem to be the risk and raising finance. Patrick, the man behind the phrase FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, spoke of transitioning into entrepreneurship through a 10% approach (time, energy and funds) while the Venture Capital event dismissed several urban legends that we all perceived existed in the game.

Some of us came into the MBA with entrepreneurship experience and others came in with entrepreneurial ambitions, but rest assured most of us now have the aspiration to pursue our own path someday soon.

Entrepreneur. Chart with keywords and icons
Entrepreneur. Chart with keywords and icons

Schedule of events

From UCD Smurfit to Startup CEO

Journeys from UCD Smurfit to Startup CEOs.

  • Lukas Decker (Coindrum)
  • Ronan Byrne (Clearsight Innovations)
  • Stephen Quinn (Jobbio)

Their personal journey, the hows and whys, the choices and sacrifices, the highs and lows.

Inside the Incubator @ GEC

Insight into the Guinness Enterprise Centre, their offerings, introduction to current start-ups residing there and the opportunities to get involved.

Social Enterprise Scaling – CoderDojo

Bill Liao, CoderDojo’s first angel investor, as he recounts the story of the rapid global growth of their movement.

Unspoken Lessons from Failure

“It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”.

The 10% Entrepreneur

Choosing between the stability of a traditional career and the freedom of entrepreneurship?

Inspiring Creativity & Innovation @ Google

How does Google manage to generate, create, innovate and launch new products and services in an endless flow?

The Best Source of Funding Depends on…

“The best source of funding depends on where the company is at in their journey, what their needs are and the terms on the table for any particular deal.”

Hear three of Ireland’s leading and most respected Venture Capitalists and Advisors:

  • Brian Caulfield
  • John O’Sullivan
  • Michael Culligan

Joined by two entrepreneurs:

  • Neal O’Gorman (Artomatix)
  • Myles Murray (PMD Solutions)

Innovation – Accenture-style

With the launch of their Centre for Innovation, “The Dock”, hot off the press, what is Accenture’s strategy and structure around Innovation and what role does The Dock play in that?

Join Eva Maguire, designer of the internal innovation ecosystem at The Dock, to find out how they plan to make it work! 

Social Entrepreneurship: A Serious Consideration

Have you ever considered that a social enterprise may not be much different from a commercial one?

  • Emma Walshe (COO Foodcloud)
  • Kate Dobbyn (MD Seachange Foundation)
  • Sinead McCool (Enactus Ireland)
  • Gain insight into what pursuing a social enterprise entails.

Real examples of what it takes to be successful, the challenges, the supports available and how sustainability can be achieved.

BREXIT: Opportunity or Threat for Irish Entrepreneurs?

“Turning the challenge of Brexit into an opportunity: How are entrepreneurs and their representative bodies preparing for Brexit?”

A stellar panel of entrepreneurs and senior representatives from government bodies for an insightful discussion on the impact Brexit, how and what contingencies have been developed, and what the government and the entrepreneurial representative and support bodies are doing to assist with the impact it will have on the entrepreneurial community in Ireland

  • Donal Hayes, Director, Tipperary Cheese
  • Paul Byrne, CEO, Currency Fair
  • Eamonn Molloy, Assistant Secretary, Britain & NI Affairs Section, Department of the Taoiseach
  • John McGrane, Director General, British Irish Chamber of Commerce
  • Leo McAdams, Divisional Manager, Financial Services & BPO, Enterprise Ireland

To find out more about the Smurfit MBA and various MBA Clubs, click here.

Road to the World Cup

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How many people get the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Not many. How many people would like the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Everybody you would imagine? Surprisingly that is not the case. Apparently many are only interested if it’s an all-expenses paid free ride.

This year we were much later getting started than the groups of other years. This was probably due to each of us waiting for someone more experienced than ourselves to take charge. Eventually, fearing that it would not go ahead at all I decided to have a go at getting it started. This was quite successful, 9 likeminded MBA students attended the first meeting with the collective goal of getting to Duke. We formed a committee and ran through a basic outline of tasks that were critical to success. These were focused on two main streams: fundraising and training. We knew we needed MSc students for not only numbers but also for skills. We quickly held meetings with those interested to get them on board.

As January drew to a close we were acutely aware of the need to get training immediately. This presented two main challenges. The first was finding an experienced coach to train us and the second was finding a rugby pitch to train on. We interviewed Warren Gatland but he said he was too busy preparing for the Lions tour and Joe Schmidt said he was fully committed to Ireland setup. Luckily we secured the services of David Mannion (Current Monkstown & Ex Leinster Juniors Coach). Securing a pitch was more difficult. Unfortunately we were told categorically by the IRFU that the Aviva was off limits until the summer and the GAA told us no more rugby would be played in Croke Park unless the World Cup 2023 bid was successful. We looked closer to home. We were denied a spot in Belfield due to the high volume of activity on the pitches including believe it or not American Football. Fortunately, through our coach we secured the use of Monkstown’s ground for training.

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Obviously sending a team to the U.S. is not cheap. There is the cost of flights, accommodation, transfers, insurance, tournament entry, jerseys, medical equipment, food amongst other things. Fundraising is key to the success of it all. The earlier you start, the easier it will be. It’s certainly not an easy task. Begging people, even Alumni, for money is a challenge in itself. It’s even harder when they say no. Although you are asking on behalf of the college it is still quite difficult not to take the rejection personally. Nevertheless, you must pick yourself up and ask again. We are hugely grateful to all of our sponsors, particularly Sinnotts Bar for being our main sponsor, they backed us early when finances were looking bleak. Without them we would almost certainly not be going.

We also held a table quiz. We hit up our family, friends and classmates to dig deep into their pockets and back us financially. The response was overwhelmingly brilliant. People came in their droves and the venue was packed to the rafters. It’s great to see that those who know us believe in us.

We made it crystal clear from the beginning that players would need to cover their own flights. Although this was not the ideal situation, it was useful for separating out those who were serious about competing and those who were just looking for a free ride. This was tested further when it came to paying for the flights where more people dropped out. Thankfully we had a core group that believed in one another and in our ability to get this off the ground and they all committed their money. I believe the group is stronger because of this and we know that those who have committed are serious.

With less than a week remaining until the tournament, now our focus is on player management, specifically how we will need to be smart to try and avoid injuries and keep our composure whilst playing numerous games in the heat. Hopefully the next blog I write will be telling positive tales of the tournament. A ferocious amount of work has been done by everybody to get us this far. Please wish both teams (men’s and women’s) well.

Cathal Murphy ~ Full-Time MBA

UCD Smurfit Team Return as Molson Division Winners

UCD Smufit Molson Team with Prof. Pat Gibbons
UCD Smufit Molson Team with Prof. Pat Gibbons

The first week of January usually marks a familiar return to the rhythm of office life. For the team chosen to represent UCD Smurfit at the 36th John Molson MBA International Case Competition, the first week of January 2017 proved to be an unforgettable experience. The competition is the largest and longest established of its kind in the world. Intense preparations prior to Christmas had been interspersed with end of year exams and project submissions, but finally, the time had come to put our MBA skills to the test. With a vague appreciation of the scale of the challenge facing us, we set off for Montreal satisfied that we had put in the hard yards in honing our strategy and presentation skills. Despite this, we could never have envisioned the magnitude of the experience ahead of us, the highlight of the MBA to date for our team.

Having rang in both the Irish and Canadian New Years, we were glad to have a day of respite on New Year’s Day before the action commenced on Monday. A morning stroll through fresh snow around the historic Old Port of Montreal allowed us dispatch the Christmas cobwebs and observe the city operating at full tilt despite the inclement weather. Historically the commercial capital of Canada, Montreal remains an important centre of commerce, aerospace, finance, pharmaceuticals and technology. The 270 executive judges for the week’s competition hailed from these local industries and global giants spanning companies such as E&Y, Bombardier, Pathfinder, Royal Bank of Canada, Microsoft and IBM.

The eagerly awaited draw to group the 36 teams took place at Monday morning’s impressive opening ceremony. A nervous energy filled the room, as the business school names were drawn one by one. UCD Smurfit were drawn against five leading business schools from Sweden, the US, Canada and Mexico. Over the course of the week we would go head to head with each, in a round-robin format, tackling five unpublished business cases, including a live case. Each team would be allocated three hours to read a 20-30 page business case, carry out an analysis, and develop a strategy and implementation plan. The output in each instance would be a 25 minute PowerPoint presentation to a panel of five executive judges followed by 15 minutes of questions.

UCD Smurfit Molson Team - L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Catherine O'Brien, Tanya Kenny, Derek Anderson
UCD Smurfit Molson Team – L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Catherine O’Brien, Tanya Kenny, Derek Anderson

Day 1: Our opening round saw us drawn against the highly reputable Simon Business School from the University of Rochester in New York. The case challenged us to develop a competitive strategy for Swatch as the company faced the rise of the Apple iWatch. A strong opening performance saw us grind out a win against Simon. This victory would be the platform that gave the team confidence that we belonged on the global stage. We were off the mark.

Day 2: The famous ‘double case day’ dubbed as the toughest day of the week. First up, a global expansion and growth strategy for a complex Portuguese retailing conglomerate. A tough case, and facing very challenging opposition from LSBE of Wifrid Laurier University Canada, we were delighted to notch up another win. Following a short break for lunch, the third round saw us develop a strategy for Uber for South African market entry which we lost to tough opponents from Haskayne Business School from the University of Calgary. After three rounds we were placed 2nd in our division, just behind Sweden’s highly regarded Lund University School of Business and Economics, who were positioned to top the group and make the semi-finals. Any thoughts of coming here to get one victory had soon turned to calculating what results we required to qualify for the semi’s.

Day 3: Proceedings took a different twist, Dave McLaughlin, the General Manager of WeWork, a US shared office space start up founded in 2010 with a current valuation of $16bn, presented a live challenge from his company. We were tasked with developing a new business line for the company. To add to the pressure, having heard of UCD Smurfit, Dave selected to attend our presentation to scout for his next business innovation. We faced off stiff competition from LUND to jointly top the division with Canada’s Haskayne at the end of the day. It would be an early night for the team with thoughts firmly fixed on Thursday’s final round.

Day 4: The final division case on Thursday saw us pitted against the energetic Mexican business school EGADE and challenged to develop a growth strategy for an Indian agri business. A tough case, we debated possibilities at length and felt the pressure ramp up as the time ticked down. Despite the frantic preparations, we made an excellent presentation and impressed the judges by competently validating our strategy under intense scrutiny.

We nervously awaited the announcement of the division winners and semi-finalists as we dined on lunch. When ‘UCD Smurfit’ flashed up on the screen as division winners and semi-finalists we jumped from our seats ecstatic that our hard work had reaped reward.

Following lunch, the team took a well-earned rest in preparation for battle in the semi-final that evening, where we would face the American University of Beruit (Lebanon) and Queensland University of Technology (Australia). We were tasked with developing an integration strategy for a LinkedIn acquisition. The semi-final ran very close with eventual 3rd placed finalists Queensland winning our semi-final. Emotions were mixed at the announcement on Thursday night. We were disappointed to have narrowly lost out on a place in the final but incredibly proud of our achievements in topping the division and beating off strong competition to reach the semi-final.

Despite the packed daily case schedule, the competition organisers ran a full programme of evening events which allowed participants to experience Canadian culture, make new connections from all over the world and kick back after long days of competition. Attending Montreal’s home of ice hockey at the Bell Centre to see Canada play the Czech Republic was one particular highlight. The games’ roots are professed in some quarters to originate from ancient hurling, still though, nothing comes close to a day out at Croke Park! Thursday night’s movie theme party saw us trade business formal for superhero costumes with some of our team discovering hidden super powers at the karaoke machine! The final banquet dinner on Friday night celebrated the end to an incredible week. Canadian university, Memorial, were presented with the Concordia Cup. As one of six division winners, we were also presented with a cheque in recognition of our performance.

As we face into the final semester of the Executive MBA, we look forward to further challenges and further adventure as we visit Japan and Korea on company visits later this year. Molson has however been the stand out experience of the MBA to date and the learning, laughs and friendships forged will remain indelibly engraved in our memories as we wistfully reflect on our time at Smurfit.

We were expertly guided throughout the week and in preparation by Professor Pat Gibbons and we would like to express our deep gratitude to Pat for his encouragement, time, and expertise. We would also like to acknowledge and thank Paul Slattery for his guidance on presentation skills and Ro Downing and all at Smurfit for supporting the team from the outset. The competition itself was also excellently organised and hosted by Concordia University’s John Moslon School of Business and great credit and thanks is due to the organising committee who looked after us so well during the week.  A final note of thanks to the UCD Alumni Association Montreal Chapter and local business community representatives who hosted a reception for us during our stay.

To the next generation of MBAs, ‘the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity for growth’.

Go forth and seize the opportunity.

Catherine O’Brien ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

On behalf of: Derek Anderson, Anne Marie Barcoe, Tanya Kenny and Declan Walsh.

F.O.M.O

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F.O.M.O – Fear of Missing Out – Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere

I’m not sure whether it’s something that I developed while living in London, where there is always a reason to be out, or something that was always in me, and has in fact developed me. Regardless, it is making this chapter a little hectic.

I have just returned to Dublin to do the MBA in Smurfit, after six years working in the UK. A lot of thought went into my choice of school having offers in both London and Dublin. Smurfit’s highly regarded name, a part scholarship and the option to move back in with the folks, made the potential return to my MBA investment in Smurfit stand out a mile.

Was it the right decision? Definitely. The last six weeks has been a whirlwind, but an extremely interesting, engaging and thought provoking whirlwind. The quality of the lectures, as a result of combining high caliber students with world-class faculty and teaching methods, makes you really want to be there. FOMO rating (1-5) on missing lectures, 4.

Golf, Rugby, Entrepreneurship, Thought Leadership, just a handful of societies to get involved in. As newly appointed Chairman of the Golf Society, which I got by default from being the only new MBA to attend the final outing of last year’s society, I am now tasked with organising a calendar of events for the year. On Thursday night, my Competitive Strategy study plan was hi-jacked by an Entrepreneurship event, which I must admit was well worth attending. FOMO rating on missing Society events, 4.

This coming Monday, Global Network Week (GNW) commences. The GNW program is an initiative of the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) and is designed to provide students from participating GNAM schools with a rich foreign immersion experience. You have the opportunity to travel to schools abroad, including Yale, or staying in Dublin, where the theme of the week is “The Three Pillars of Innovation in Ireland Technology, Food and Culture”. The aim of the week in Dublin is to “drive innovation and create value by connecting leading global business schools, their resources and their stakeholders. Initially I wasn’t going to take part in GNW because I didn’t want to travel abroad, and if I chose the week in Dublin I would have to drop one my three electives in semester two Executive Decision Making, Strategy Execution and Entrepreneurship) each one of which I really wanted to do. Roll on Week 4 and with the GNW buzz is in the air, FOMO creeps in. The thought of an amazing GNW week in full flow right on my doorstep, while I procrastinate about studying financial reporting for the mid-November exam, got the better of me. FOMO rating on missing GNW week, 5. FOMO rating on dropping a module, 5. Answer, do it all. You can see where this year is going.

I think I can speak for the class when I say we are up to our eyes. My mother thinks that ‘they’ are giving us too much ‘overtime’, as she probably spoke to me more when I lived in London than she does now, when we share the same roof. However, I have explained to my folk, it is all great, I’m enjoying the overtime, and everybody wants to be there. My only challenge is ranking things accurately on the FOMO scale, so I don’t get my prioritisation wrong.

Colin Dunne ~ Full-Time MBA

The True Meaning of Learning


The True Meaning of Learning

Fifteen months ago I contemplated embarking on the executive MBA. It was something I thought would benefit my career. Then, I had just completed my professional accountancy examinations and couldn’t imagine a greater workload from doing the course. Fast forward fifteen months, the EMBA has been a rollercoaster. It is a four-semester course with continuous assessment exercises contributing to final grades. For me, in terms of workload this represents the key difference between professional accountancy exams and the EMBA. Individuals learn the skill of combining the pressures of assignments with readings without forgetting the demands of their full time jobs and family lives. In truth, the intensity of this semester hasn’t yet scaled the heights of the last semester perhaps due to knowledge of a two-week mid-term break with an added week for Easter. However, with several projects due after the mid-term break, there is a general feeling that we are about to quickly shift through the gears.

Before I enrolled, I questioned myself whether I had made the right decision to do the EMBA, whether the benefits of the EMBA outweigh the financial and non-financial cost. In the last week, I have seen an NPV calculation in one of my finance lectures that shows how financially valuable the course is. While that is nice to know, it is not as important as the self-development programmes which I have found equally as valuable as the academic learning. Regardless of time constraints, I would encourage anyone considering the Smurfit Executive MBA to take advantage of the invaluable non-academic sessions included in the programme. To date, my eight academic modules and the non-academic ones of presentation seminars, career development sessions are interactive making the EMBA programme a truly unique experience. This is not surprising considering the rich blend of experience in the classrooms. As Benjamin Franklin once said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. For me, this encapsulates the essence of true learning.

Olumuyiwa Farayibi ~ Executive MBA